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Q:  My child is still an infant, so he isn’t using much media yet. But I am realizing that my husband and I are constantly “connected”! Our laptops, cell phones, and iPods are always on, mostly for work reasons. How should we limit our own media use to set the best example for our children?
Connected and Concerned in Boston, MA

A: Dear Connected and Concerned,  

When I hear about a family being connected, my first thought is that they mean to each other, but these days it seems that you’re not alone—most people mean connected to devices.  

As you’re probably discovering by watching your infant, children are great imitators. Your instincts here are right—they will learn how to use media—and how much—from watching you. I commend you for taking a second look at your own habits! I recommend taking these three steps to model good media habits:

  1. Limit the amount of time you spend using media. Instead of channel surfing or web surfing, use media for a specific reason, and shut it off when you’re done.

  2. Use good judgment when choosing media you’ll use in their presence.  Choose shows, music, videos, and websites that you think are okay for them to see or hear. Remember that children learn more from adult content than you think they do, even if they don’t quite understand it.
  3. Model alternative activities, such as reading, playing sports, or participating in community activities. That lets them know that there are many options for occupying free time.

Although many parents are working longer and harder in these tough economic times, if you have few hours between coming home from work and your kids’ bedtime, I’d suggest that you all take a break from media and other distractions to focus on each other. I’m sure you could use that break, too!
>>See other tips about being a media role model

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

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